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In the Heart of the Blackland Divide

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Down Memory Lane: The Boys Club Easter Trip and a Rattlesnake Bite

Roscoe boys on an Easter Trip meet Governor Allen Shivers in Austin in 1954.
For me, late April always brings to mind the annual Easter Trip once available to members of the Roscoe Boys Club, and the rattlesnake bite I got while on one in 1957.  Any of the boys who ever made that trip in the forties, fifties, or sixties will tell you that it was a memorable experience.

The Easter Trip was an annual affair that took place on the Easter break, which in the days before schools observed a spring break was a four-day holiday that began on Good Friday and lasted through the following Monday.  About ten or twelve boys would make the trip in the “Moose Wagon,” our nickname for George Parks’ van.  Each had to have enough money for his own meals, snacks, and souvenirs.  The rest was covered by the Boys Club.

As with most Boys Club trips, the Easter Trip began at the Roscoe Times office with leaving time set at five in the morning.  George was an early riser and insisted on an early start, and woe to the boy who arrived ten minutes late, because by then George would already be gone.  This idiosyncrasy was well known to all the mothers in and around Roscoe, and usually by ten to five, everybody was there and ready to go.

It would still be dark when we set off for San Marcos, about 325 miles away, and many boys, especially those in the back seats, would go right back to sleep and doze until it got light.  At around one or two o’clock, we’d arrive and immediately go down to a recreational area on the river there and get in a good swim before supper.  It would be the first time any of us had swum that year, and the water would be cold—but not as cold as the water in west Texas, which wouldn’t be warm enough to swim in until the end of May.

There was an outdoor snack bar there with a jukebox, which blared out the latest hits, the favorite of one year being Elvis Presley’s “Midnight Train.” There were also local high school kids hanging out there, the boys in white t-shirts and blue jeans, white socks, and moccasins—with their hair combed back in duck tails and one sleeve rolled up so that it held a pack of Camels on the upper arm.  Girls in ponytails wore full skirts or rolled-up blue jeans with thick, white socks and saddle oxfords.

Near the diving board was a contraption we called the trolley, which we all loved to ride.  You climbed a ladder about as high as a high diving board up to a steel cable that ran from an overhead pole all the way down to the bank on the opposite side of the river.  The trolley was a handle with grooved wheels that fit on the cable.  By grabbing the handle with both hands and jumping off the platform, you would quickly be borne out over the river.  Then by letting go, you would plunge from ten to twelve feet into the water below.

We swam and played until everyone had had enough, and then we went to supper at a restaurant called Arredondo’s. One year, George got sick of people playing Elvis and Little Richard on the juke box there, so he fed it about a dollar's worth of nickels and played Johnny Cash's "Ballad of a Teenage Queen" over and over again.  The other people in the restaurant thought he was crazy.  I can still sing that song by heart.

Then we went to the cabins, where we stayed for the night.  George knew a man in San Marcos who owned some cabins that he rented out to Southwest Texas State students. He usually had two or three vacant ones, and these he let the Boys Club use for the night.

The next morning after breakfast we swam again, this time at a place where the river water came pouring over a short concrete dam about three feet tall.  The level of the river was about three inches higher than that of the dam, and we would get in the spot where the water came over the dam in a big, constant wave.  After the swim, we went to Wonder Cave for two or three hours and then to Aquarena, a tourist attraction with glass-bottomed boats for rent and an underwater show for tourists—with “mermaids” (young women in mermaid outfits) and a swimming pig.

That afternoon we’d leave San Marcos and drive over to San Antonio, where we went to the Alamo, which we treated with the reverence of a church.  This was the cradle of Texas liberty, and it meant more to us than anything from the Revolutionary War.  Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie, and Colonel Travis were heroes we grew up knowing about, and after visiting the Alamo we’d go to the San Fernando Cathedral in downtown San Antonio to see the stone casket that held their ashes.

We’d also go to the old Spanish Governor’s Palace and in the evening to La Villita and the Riverwalk, although those places were much different then.  Before the revitalization of downtown, La Villita and the Riverwalk were in rough areas that tourists visited only in the daytime.  At night, Hispanic gangs were out, and George made us all keep together while walking along the river there in the evenings.

On Easter Sunday morning, we’d go to a protestant church somewhere in San Antonio—and would usually be recognized and welcomed by the pastor when he gave the announcements before the sermon.  In the afternoon we went to the batting cages or played miniature golf or went to a movie in the Aztec Theatre, one of those grand old movie theatres from the twenties, with a high ceiling and elaborate architecture.  The ceiling had “stars” that twinkled, and everything was built and decorated in the Spanish style.  That evening, after supper at a Mexican restaurant with Mariachi singers, we’d go to Playland, a big amusement park with the largest roller coaster in Texas, along with various other rides.

The next morning we got up and went to Austin, where we spent the greater part of the day.  We always went to the state capitol and saw the sights there.  The state representative for the Roscoe district would sometimes meet us and show us around, and one year some boys went in and met the governor.  Then, we’d get in one last swim, this time at Barton Creek, a spring-fed creek in south Austin with crystal clear water the same temperature all year round.  Finally, in mid-afternoon we’d start the long drive back to Roscoe.

It was on one of these return trips that I got bitten by a rattlesnake.  This was on April 22, 1957, when I was thirteen.  We were about five miles beyond Lampasas when Billy Haney, admiring the bluebonnets on the shoulders of the highway, asked George if he could get out and pick some for his mother.  George agreed and stopped the van.  This was before it was against the law to pick bluebonnets.

Billy and I got out and were on our way over to a bluebonnet patch when I stepped on something soft.  Simultaneously, I heard the unmistakable rattle and felt the snake strike me on the lower leg.  I was barefooted and in shorts, and I still remember what the snake’s body felt like when I stepped on it.  I called out to George that a snake bit me.  When he asked what kind and I said a rattlesnake, he told me to lie down on the shoulder of the road.

Then he said, “Who’s got a knife?” and when my brother Joe said that he did, I knew this wasn’t going to be fun.  Joe’s knife was an old pocketknife that he got from Daddy and used primarily for cleaning fish.  Its main blade was chipped and rusty. George cut an x with it on my leg where the snake bit it and started sucking out the blood and poison and then spitting it out.

In the meantime Joe and Cuppy Graham found the snake in the grass and killed it with rocks.  On George’s orders, Wade McLeod stood out in the middle of the highway and flagged down a car.  It was just luck that the first person who came along was an intern who worked at St. Mary’s Hospital in Lampasas.  He and a couple of boys picked me up and put me in the back seat of his ’57 Chevy.

Then we went roaring off at high speed back toward Lampasas. Wade and Benny Hunter jumped in the back seat with me, and I lay across them.  Benny gave me his army fatigue cap to chew on, and Wade was crying and saying, “Don’t die,” while Benny reported to us that the driver was going 95 mph.

When we got to the hospital, the intern drove right up to the emergency entrance, and almost immediately they had me on a table and went to work on my leg.  While one doctor repeatedly stabbed my leg with a scalpel and then ran a suction device over it to pull the poisoned blood out, another gave me a snake serum shot with a big needle and then some morphine.  Then the lights went out, and I was out cold for twenty-four hours.

When I woke up, I was in a hospital bed and my mother was sitting in a chair by the wall crocheting.  My right leg was about twice as big around as normal and just about every color of the rainbow—purple, red, and yellow being the main colors.  I stayed in the hospital for five more days before the doctor said I was well enough to go home.  Wells Funeral Home in Roscoe had an ambulance in those days, and George Parks got Sid Wells to drive to Lampasas and bring me back to Roscoe in it.

I was out of school for another week or so after that and on crutches for three weeks more.  Robert Martin started calling me Snake, and before long all the other boys followed suit—although the girls never did, so to this day I am still known in Roscoe to the males as Snake and to most females as Bitsy, as I was known to everyone before the snake bite.



Robert “Bob” Gordon Campbell, 80, died last Tuesday at Rolling Plains Hospital.  Funeral services were held on Friday at the First Baptist Church and followed by interment in the Roscoe Cemetery. 

Born March 4, 1931, in Corpus Christi, he married Annell Hodges on April 20, 1957, in San Antonio. He worked for Industrial X-Ray Co. for many years and also owned Instrument Service and Engineering Co. for 10 years. He had lived in Roscoe for the past 17 years.  A Korean veteran and American Legion member, he was also a member of First Baptist Church.  Survivors include his wife, Annell of Roscoe; daughters, Brenda of Arlington and Lisa of Roscoe; son, Greg of Irving, and three grandchildren. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"Spring Fling" Provides Respite from Area Fires

During a historic week in which wildfires raged out of control all over West Texas, Roscoe’s Spring Fling on Saturday came as a welcome break for many local residents as well as those from surrounding communities—and, despite the presence of murky skies and the smell of smoke, especially early on before the winds died down, people came out and enjoyed themselves.

Skies were blue in the morning as the Roscoe Little League held its opening ceremonies at George Parks Field, but as the day progressed, the south winds picked up and saturated the area with smoke from the Wildcat fire in Coke County—just as the day before, the north winds had brought smoke and ash from the big fire west of Roby. 

Given the conditions, the fireworks show, one of the planned highlights for Spring Fling, was called off, but as afternoon progressed into evening, the strong winds went away, taking the smell of smoke with them.  By the time the featured band, the Tejas Brothers, replaced Lawless Flatz on the stage next to the Roscoe State Bank, conditions had improved considerably and stayed that way for the rest of the evening, allowing folks to enjoy themselves as they listened to some of the best music that’s been heard in these parts for a while.





The Abilene Reporter-News continues to provide informed updates on all the wildfires still out of control in the Big Country and surrounding area.  For more information, see their stories and photo galleries at  



At the Area Meet of Districts 9A and 10A in Hamlin last Thursday, two Plowboys and one Plowgirl did well enough to qualify for the Regional Meet at Elmer Gray Stadium on the ACU campus May 2-3. 

Caden Smith won two events, the Shot Put (54’7”) and the Discus Throw (153’4”), and came in second in another, the 110 Hurdles (16.02), while Austin Carrasco came in third in the 300 hurdles (43.88).

Jacinda Morales qualified in two events, finishing third in the 1600 meter run (6:02.93) and fourth in the 800 (2:30.28).

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

City of Roscoe Hosts “Spring Fling” on Saturday, April 16

The Tejas Brothers are the feature act for the street dance at the "Spring Fling."
The City of Roscoe invites one and all to a fun time on Saturday afternoon and evening in downtown Roscoe as it celebrates the season with its first ever “Spring Fling,” a festival replete with activities for the kids, live music for a street dance “on the bricks,” and a fireworks show, along with street vendors and other entertainment.   

Activities will begin around 5:00pm with street vendors, music by the Roscoe Plowboy Band, and bounce houses and inflatable slides for the kids.  The Roscoe Emporium will host a Sidewalk Chalk Art contest and at 6:00 will announce winners of its children’s coloring contest from entries submitted last week.  The Roscoe Historical Museum will also be open with some new photographs on display.

Live music will begin on the stage in the street next to the Roscoe State Bank at around 6:00 with Lawless Flatz, a popular country/rock band from Roby that has developed a large following in this area.   

They will be followed at about 8:30 by the headline act for the evening, the Tejas Brothers from Fort Worth.  If you’ve ever seen them, you’ll need no encouragement, but if you haven’t, you should take this opportunity to experience for free a fun-loving, high-energy, family friendly band that combines conjunto rhythms with honky-tonk country to create their own special version of the Tex-Mex sound.  Well known around the state, they have been nominated and are currently in the running for the Best Live Act in the 2011 Lone Star Music Awards.

At 9:15 or so, they will break for the fireworks show.  If you’ve seen one of Robert McBride’s shows on the Fourth of July or at the Wind Festival, you know that you’re in store for an exciting, memorable event.  Following the fireworks, the Tejas Brothers will return to the stage and play until around 10:15.   

So put on your dancing shoes, bring your coolers and lawn chairs, and take a break from the normal routine for a fun Saturday evening at Roscoe’s “Spring Fling.”

To see music videos of the Tejas Brothers, click here or here, and to check out Lawless Flatz, click here.



The Open Door Child Development Center will host an open house tomorrow, Thursday, April 14, from 5:30 to 6:30pm at their location at the First United Methodist Church at 301 Cypress Street.  There will be a program in the sanctuary at 6:00. 

Crystal Aljoe, the director, emphasizes that the Center is not just about babysitting but takes an active role in developing the children it keeps, teaching them social skills, involving them in learning activities, and letting them know that God loves them. 

Licensed for 51 children, the Center currently has 39, ranging from infants up to school age. It charges $400 a month per child and is open weekdays from 7:30am to 6:00pm.     



At the District 9-1A Meet in Hamlin last Thursday, several Roscoe High School track and field athletes qualified for the Area Meet in Hamlin tomorrow.   

Caden Smith paced the Plowboys by winning three events: the shot put (53’5”), the discus throw (148’2”) and the 110 meter hurdles (15.47).  Jesus Leanos came in second in the 3200 meter run (10:59.08) and fourth in the 1600 meter run (5:16.00), while Austin Carrasco was fourth in the 300 meter hurdles (44:06). 

Jacinda Morales led the Plowgirls by coming in second in two events: the 800 meter (2.28.62) and the 1600 meter runs (5:53.73).  Amber Craig was second in the 3200 meter run (13:15.12) and fourth in the 1600 (6:06.72).  Other qualifiers included Carolina Perez, fourth in the discus throw (85’4”), Allura Renteria, fourth in the 3200, and the 4 x 100 meter relay team, fourth (54.82)

Qualifiers at the Area Meet will participate in the Regional Meet at ACU’s Elmer Gray Stadium in Abilene on May 2 and 3. 



Vera Aucutt, 84, passed away on Friday, April 8, at Nolan Nursing and Rehab in Sweetwater. Funeral services were held on Tuesday with burial at Roscoe Cemetery.

Born Vera Gabler on October 15, 1926, in Nolan County, she married Hermon Aucutt on October 29, 1945, in Roscoe. She was a homemaker and a member of First United Methodist Church.  She is survived by her daughter, Karen Elaine Reedy of Roscoe and son, Ronnie Eugene Aucutt of Harrison, Arkansas; four grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.  



Amado “Buck” Lopez, 74, died Thursday, April 7, at Rolling Plains Hospital.  Funeral services were on Monday at St. John’s Catholic Church in Hondo with burial in the Hondo Cemetery.

Born Sept. 13, 1936, in Shiro, Texas, he married Sapopana Cardenas on Jan. 9, 1956, in Roscoe. He worked as a farmer for both Billy Whorton and Jesse Faust and was also a long-time employee for U.S. Gypsum and Roscoe ISD.  In later years, he also worked for W-2 Show Pigs.  Survivors include two daughters, Lucy Torrez and Jo Anna Wofford, both of Sweetwater, and eight grandchildren.   

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Accident Claims Life of Anna Mueller

Anna Lee Mueller, 50, of Highland was killed in Runnels County on Saturday when the all-terrain vehicle she was driving crashed while going down a hill.  Funeral services were held yesterday at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Sweetwater followed by interment in the Roscoe Cemetery. 

Born on May 29, 1960, in San Angelo, she graduated from Miles High School in 1978 and attended Angelo State University.  In 1982 she married David Mueller in Rowena.  They moved from Ballinger to Sweetwater in 1992 and to the Highland community in 1996. 

Survivors include her husband, David Mueller of Sweetwater Steel, two sons, Kevin of Atlanta, Ga., and Todd of Roscoe, one daughter, Stephanie Howard of Bakersfield, Ca., and two grandsons, also of Bakersfield.  



The home of Mr. and Mrs. Pete Rivera at 204 Bois d’Arc Street was completely destroyed by a fire that raged out of control early Sunday morning.  No one was hurt, but the fire, which started about 3:00am and was caused by faulty electrical wiring, spread so quickly through the house that by the time the Roscoe Volunteer Fire Department arrived, there was no chance of saving it.

The loss was one that touched me as well since it was the house I lived in for the first sixteen years of my life, and for me it always seemed somehow to be the central point of the universe.  My father and mother moved there when they got married in 1939 and lived there for over twenty years as they raised my brothers and me. 


Another wreck at what locals refer to as “Destruction Junction” tied up westbound traffic on I-20 late Saturday afternoon as a woman driving an SUV pulling a trailer lost control and crashed at the underpass where US 84 joins I-20, a mile or so east of Roscoe.  Unlike the three-vehicle accident that happened there three weeks ago, this collision luckily caused no fatalities—only a broken nose for the driver.  It does, however, serve as a reminder of the danger of the location.  



The Roscoe Plowboys and Plowgirls did well in some events and not in others at the Mogul Relays in Munday last Saturday.  Once again, the girls were led by Jacinda Morales and the boys by Caden Smith.

The Plowgirls came in third in a field of eleven schools.  Jacinda Morales won the 800 with a time of 2:26 and the 1600 with a time of 5:51. The Plowgirls’ 1600 relay team placed second to Vernon with a time of 4:32, and the 800 relay team came in third at 1:58.  Lynnsi Moses was third in the 100 hurdles (18.69), and Amber Craig was third in the 3200 (13:20). 

The Plowboys placed fourth in a field of nine.  Caden Smith won the discus (156’3”) and was second in the shot put (50’6”).  He also came in second in the 110 hurdles (16.44).  Devon Freeman was second in the pole vault (11’6”), Cody Graham was third in the high jump (5’4”), and Jesus Leanos was third in the 3200 (11:06).  

The District Track Meet will be in Hamlin tomorrow, April 7.



Caden Smith is a first-team selection for the Abilene Reporter-News’ All Big Country Class A Boys Basketball Team.  In naming Smith, the Reporter-News noted his averages of 15.6 points and 12.6 rebounds per game this year, as well as his role in helping the Plowboys to the state championship in 2009 and his being named MVP of his district in 2011.

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